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Interpol help sought to curb blasphemy online

Updated March 16, 2017

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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Inves­tigation Agency (FIA) is in touch with Interpol to identify social media pages that contain inflammatory and sacrilegious content that violates international laws.

In addition, the agency has sent a formal request to social networking site Facebook in the light of recent court rulings regarding the blocking of blasphemous material online, FIA officials told a high-level meeting on Wednesday.

Chaired by Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, the meeting was held to review ongoing investigations into the circulation of blasphemous content on social media sites, in the light of the prime minister’s instructions to ensure the immediate blocking of all such content and swift punishment of those behind these acts.

An interior ministry statement said that at least 11 persons, who were involved in uploading and sharing objectionable material, had been identified and were being questioned, adding that FIA would also seek help from Interpol in questioning some of the suspects — indicating that some of the suspects may not be in the country.

The minister also directed FIA to seek help from intelligence agencies to identify the culprits who had uploaded the blasphemous material.

In addition, a senior diplomat at Pakistan’s embassy in Washington has been tasked with contacting Face­book to seek the requisite information under US Right to Information laws.

The statement said the government was considering hiring noted legal expert Farrukh Kareem to pursue the matter in international judicial forums to push Facebook to remove the content that is hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims.

The minister was quoted as saying that the government would use all available options to ensure the removal of blasphemous material from social media sites.

“I hope that the management of Facebook will respect the religious sentiments of 200 million Pakistanis and tens of millions of users of Facebook in Pakistan and will cooperate in that regard,” the statement quoted him as saying.

An FIA official told the meeting that while it had established contact with Facebook as per court orders, the social media site’s management had yet to respond. The meeting was attended by officers of the interior ministry, National Counter Terrorism Authority, National Database and Registration Authority and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2017